Gareth Bale set for Real Madrid debut
Record signing to play against Villarreal despite disrupted pre-season
Real Madrid’s new signing Gareth Bale (11) is tackled by Cristiano Ronaldo during a team training session. (Photograph: Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Showtime has arrived at last for Gareth Bale. After a summer of almost interminable haggling, the 24-year-old will make his debut as a Real Madrid player when then Spanish aristocrats travel to Villarreal tonight.
It will be the fulfilment of a dream that the quiet man from Cardiff has pursued since childhood – and the beginning of a period of unprecedented scrutiny. How he deals with the expectation will be fascinating, as will how he copes with the opposition and how he blends into a team of extravagant talents and formidable egos. Everything Bale does will arouse intense interest and worldwide judgment. That is the price of being the most expensive player in the history of football.
“Tomorrow he will travel with the team and he will play,” said the Real manager, Carlo Ancelotti, of the player that his club chased all summer before agreeing to pay Tottenham €100 million.
The courtship disrupted Bale’s pre-season and the half an hour that he played for Wales in their 3-0 defeat by Serbia on Tuesday was his first action since July. But Ancelotti believes the time is right for the player to perform with Cristiano Ronaldo and Co for the first time.
“I think everyone knows his pre-season was not normal but his physical condition is not bad,” said Ancelotti. “I don’t know if he will start but he will definitely play some of the match. I don’t think now is the right moment to leave him out of the team. He is going to work [on his fitness] and play at the same time.”
As if to heighten the anticipation of Madrid fans further, Ancelotti claimed that his club’s bid for Bale was not even the highest that Spurs received.
“I know that Tottenham had offers superior to Real Madrid’s,” he said. “I don’t know what was paid but I know they had a greater offer. The desire the player had to come here made the difference.”
Ancelotti indicated that Bale will initially be stationed “on the right” for Real, suggesting that Ronaldo will take up a more central position, though Bale will presumably be expected to develop an understanding with his idol in order to switch positions.